I’ve recently finished a fascinating book on the history of Walmart, as told by its founder, Sam Walton. Written in the last year before he died in 1992. At that time Walmart was a $53billion turnover company, and for some context, if you had bought $100 shares at its initial IPO in the early 1970’s, they would be worth $3.8million today (the shares split so many times over the years).
This is a very easy read with no effort required, but offers a great insight into how he managed the growth of such a large corporate. He had some wonderful ideas and asked a lot from his managers – namely keeping the customer in mind at all times. He wanted everyone (and I mean everyone) to be on the shop floor at least once a week and engaging with a shopper.
There are lots of “ah ha” moments in the book (history of Sams club), why Walmart has greeters (very surprising reason), and how he is proud to say he has the biggest fleet of millionaire trucker drivers in the country (everyone has stocks in Walmart). Also beautiful tales of how he stole ideas from all the other retailers including Kroger, Target and JCPenny.
He held all his management meetings on a Saturday morning as he didn’t believe real retailers worked 9-to-5. He also wasn’t a believer in having the company pay for things – so when the corporate headquarters got a new gym and sports centre, he said that the $3M should come out of his pocket and not out of the shoppers pocket. To this day (1992), he is proud that their offices in Bentoville will never win any design awards.
This book was on the short list for Jeff Bezos as he was inspired by Sam’s attention to the customer that he “stole” that idea for Amazon.